On Writing – by Stephen King
This is partly an autobiography, partly a book about what it means to write.
Many professional authors will tell you they are often asked where they get their ideas but few people ask about the words, or the actual mechanics of what they do. This book is about those mechanics, and how Stephen King became a writer. It is not about how to become a writer like Stephen King. It is full of amusing and enlightening anecdotes about how he became who he is. Alongside this is excellent advice on what being a writer is all about and what good writing is.
How to be a Writer – by Stewart Ferris
An excellent book which gives a great introduction to writing in a wide range of mediums, including very useful information on writing non-fiction. It is easy to read, with wide margins and reasonable spacing. The section on marketing and the different types of publishing for the modern age gives it something different to other books on writing, many of which do not include information on this.
Reading Like a Writer – Francine Prose
It is often said that if you don’t read the sorts of books you want to write, then you will never write well (though we would add ‘or listen to’). This is a book that embodies this piece of writing wisdom. It’s a bit more challenging to read than the other books on this list, but very rewarding. It helps writers improve their work by getting them to study other writers who are fantastic at what they are struggling with, whether this is dialogue, building tension, or creating great characters. It is just the thing to reach for if you know a scene isn’t quite working, but not exactly why, or how to fix it. It would also be great for English or Creative Writing students who want to improve their close reading skills.
How Not to Write a Novel – by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark
An interesting book about some of the common mistakes made by writers that stop them getting published. It gives examples of these in over the top and amusing passages, then looks at how to avoid or fix them. The authors sometimes come across a little smug, and it can get a bit tiresome reading all the examples of poor writing but if you read it in small chunks this doesn’t matter too much. It would be useful to anyone who aims to get a novel published, especially if they are just starting out.
If you don’t find any of these mistakes in your writing it could be a huge confidence boost, but on the down side, if do find you make some of these errors and you feel very protective or your writing or if you get discouraged easily then it could knock your confidence or upset you. Read this book with caution, and remember, there is nothing wrong with making mistakes, it is the only way anyone ever really learns.
Get Started in Creative Writing – by Stephen May (originally by Dianne Doubtfire)
A brilliant guide for beginners, this book covers a wide range of writing mediums. It gives excellent advise on publishing and the publishing industry. It is an excellent introduction whether you want to write poetry, plays, short stories, autobiographies, factual books, children’s books, articles or novels. It is not the only thing you will want to read but it is enough to get you started and enthusiastic about writing, even if you are only interested in one or two of the mediums the book covers. Just like all the other Teach Yourself guides, it’s very easy to read, and well laid out.
Write a Novel and Get it Published – by Nigel Watts
Another book from the Teach Yourself range, this is a great introduction to all the key information you need to know in order to write and publish a novel. It is easy to read, and is nicely laid out, the summaries are very useful, and it includes some great writing exercises. It has information on how to submit a novel, as well as how to write one, and even includes information on marketing. It’s less focused on mass market fiction than Write a Blockbuster and is an excellent step by step guide for anyone trying to write a novel, especially if it is for the first time.
Write a Blockbuster and Get it Published – by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherly
An excellent book on writing, full of advice and insight, including that of famous authors. It is part of the Teach Yourself range, so it is well laid out, and easy to read. It takes you from starting your novel to getting it published, and beyond. The section on plotting is especially good and the quotes from successful authors are both helpful and interesting. It has very useful information on genre writing, and how to decide what the best genre is for you. This will be of less use to a writer of literary fiction or non-genre writers, by definition, but even they would still find it a very interesting overview of the writing and publishing process.
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